We are back to share more of Prague’s secrets! Throughout its history, Prague has been a cultural haven. This week, we will share some little-known stories about some of the city’s most famous residents.
1. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
It is no secret that Mozart lived in Prague. The renown composer wrote and premiered his famous opera “Don Giovanni” here at the beautiful Estates Theatre. Locals like to brag about Mozart’s love for Prague. After all, even after moving away from Prague, the composer returned to visit several times, including a trip shortly before his death in 1791.
However, despite his affection for the city of one hundred spires, Mozart was not in love with the entire the city. Believe it or not, Mozart did not like the Old City at all! After first moving to Prague, he stayed with friends in a villa in the Old City. Mozart moved out after only two weeks, relocating to Bertramka, a villa in Smíchov. However, the composer still had a love for this remarkable city. As rumor has it, Mozart once proclaimed “My Praguers understand me!” Whether the quote is true, or a tall tale, we just know that we feel the same.
2. David Černý
When wandering through Prague, it does not take long before stumbling upon one of David Černý’s grandiose works. The artist is known for the social criticisms underlying his sculptures. Some of his more famous works around Prague include the faceless babies climbing up the Žižkov television tower, the rotating gears depicting Franz Kafka, and the two naked men peeing into the pool.
The artist first gained prominence after he was arrested for painting Soviet-era tank pink in 1991, which he signed his name on. Černý is an ardent critic of Communism. In 2013, when a Czech communist party was gaining support in the elections, the artist erected a new statue condemning communism. This time, the impassioned artist installed a statue flipping off Prague Castle!
While Černý is known for his controversial works, his statements are equally as contentious. Černý once proclaimed that “the prototypical Czech is a dull and somewhat dumplingified mass that hasn’t been properly stirred and is drenched in beer.” Another notable work by Černý shows Saint Wenceslas, an important Czech patron saint, riding his horse upside-down. The work is thought to be a criticism of modern society’s reliance on national identity.
3. Jan Jiří Bendl (Johann Georg Bendl)
You may have not heard of Jan Jiří Bendl. In his time, Bendl was a famous sculptor, who created many important works out of his workshop, including the famous Marian Column. The Marian Column was built as a memorial to the defense of Prague during Swedish invasion in 1648, a part of the Thirty Years War. However, the columned also had an important function, it was how Praugers told time! The column was demolished in 1918, five days after Czechoslovakia declared itself a free state. Many saw the Marian Column as a symbol of Habsburg domination.
The secret is, no one seems to know why the statue was destroyed, or by whom. There is some consensus on why. Most believe that statue was torn down because it was symbolic of persecution, specifically as an end to religious freedoms that had existed before the Hapsburg rule. However, it is disagreed on where this perception originated. People point towards different battles and symbols on the column as evidence for the belief, yet there is little consensus on what exactly lead to this public opinion. The other question is who took it down. Most sources point towards a mob of citizens, who were denouncing the Hapsburg Empire, and celebrating their renewed freedom. However, others point towards the Žižkov fire department, saying they destroyed it on orders.
As plans go forward to resurrect the column, the columns tangled history and secrets become even more interesting. To learn more, read an earlier article we wrote about the Marian Column.